Vat Savitri Vrut: Why such rituals are not patriarchal imposition – women should observe them for welfare of family

Savitri was the daughter of King Ashwapati. Ashwapati and his wife had prayed long for a child, to Savitr, the Sun God. Finally Savitr appeared before them and asked them whether they wanted a hundred sons who would be ordinary or one girl child who would be exceptional. Ashwapati and his wife asked for the girl child as a boon. The beautiful child was named Savitri after the Sun God Savitr. When Savitri grew up and it was time to choose for a groom for her, she shyly told her father that she would choose her own groom (Swayamvar). King Ashwapatitrusted her judgment and agreed to it.

She travelled out of her palace to find her groom. During this travel, she saw Satyavan, in an ashram in a forest and made up her mind to marry him. Satyavan was the son of King Dyumatsena, who had lost his kingdom and his eyes. Savitrireturned home and told her father of her choice. Just then NaradMuni appeared at the court of King Ashwapati and told him that while Savitri had made an excellent choice, Satyavan has only a year to live. Savitri was a very chaste and intelligent girl and she stuck to her decision to marry none other than Satyavan. They got married and lived a simple, devoted life in the ashram.

On the day when Satyavan was to die, Savitri decided to go to the forest with Satyavan. Deep in the forest Satyavan was about to cut wood for the fire, when he fell into a swoon. Savitri knew that it was time for Satyavan’s death. Satyavan was a very pure soul too and so Yama, the God of Death Himself came to take away Satyavan’s soul. Since Savitri too was an equally pure soul, she could see Yama taking away his soul. She followed Yama silently on His way to Yamalok. Initially, Yama was not able to hear the sound of Savitri’s anklets and did not realize that someone was following Him. But suddenly He heard the anklets and was surprised. He turned back and saw Savitri following Him and her husband’s soul.

Savitri smiled and told Yama that since she had travelled more than 7 steps with Him, Yama was a friend. Yama was pleasantly surprised with her words of wisdom. He guessed why Savitriwas following Him, but He could not go against the laws of Dharma. So He told Savitri to ask for 3 boons, anything but Satyavan’s life. Savitri agreed and asked that:• Her father-in-law should get back his sight and his kingdom.• Her father should get a hundred sons (since her parents were lonely because Savitri had married and left the house).

Yama was very pleased that Savitri thought about her elders before her own self. He granted both the boons very happily and encouraged her to ask for the final boon. Savitri asked for a 100 sons for herself. Yama agreed and said, “Tathastu” and started walking further. Savitri followed Him. Yama was surprised and asked, “Why are you following me still? I have granted your boons.” Savitri smiled and told Yama, “Dharma Raaya, I am a Sati and I cannot have children from any man other than my husband.” Yama smiled knowing fully well that He was beaten. He blessed Savitri with a glad heart and told her that the couple would lead a long and contented life. He released Satyavan’ssoul.

Savitri ran back to the place where her husband lay. Satyavanwas just stirring back to life. They went back to the ashram and received the good news that Dyumatsena had got back his sight and kingdom. Savitri then told them what had transpired. All were happy and they all blessed Sati Savitri with a long and happy married life.

Today is Vat SavitriVrat when women from many parts of Bharat tie a thread around the Vat Vruksh (Pipal tree) and pray for the long life of their husband. Many ‘modern’ people wonder why the wife has to keep fasts and pray for the husband. Why don’t husbands do this? Actually, the husband has no choice but pass on his accrued blessings to his wife! As per our Shastras, half of the blessings (Punya) got when a husband does a Puja, pilgrimage, mediation or any good deed, goes to the wife. No question asked, no option given! But the blessings received by a wife are not split between the husband and the wife. So then how does the wife show her gratitude to her husband? By praying for the welfare of her husband and family and keeping a fast for her husband’s long and happy life. Some women are not able to keep a fast … they only pray for their husband’s and family’s wellbeing. It is silly and derogatory to call our rituals, fasts, traditions and customs as ‘patriarchal abuse of women’. In our country, a wife is called the “Gruh-Lakshmi” because it is she who contributes most to making a house a home – a sacred place where one can have the ultimate solace and peace.